Think about Saturday’s Maryland-Florida State in these terms: It’ll be strength against strength and weakness against weakness at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Maryland’s best chance of having success offensively has been to let sophomore quarterback C.J. Brown make a read at the line of scrimmage and, if the opportunity is there, use his legs to gain yardage. In less than seven quarters the past two games, Brown has amassed 286 rushing yards. I said before the Clemson game that the Tigers knew what to expect from Brown because of his 124-yard rushing effort against Georgia Tech. Well, it didn’t matter much. His 162 rushing yards were the most ever by a Maryland quarterback. The bad news for Maryland is that Florida State allows just 86 rushing yards per game, which ranks ninth nationally. The Seminoles are third nationally in tackles for loss and 11th in sacks. Defensive linemen Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner are of particular concern. FSU likely will make Brown try to beat the Seminoles with his throwing arm, not his legs.
Now here’s the weakness vs. weakness portion of this entry. Florida State doesn’t wow anyone with its ground game. The uninspiring play of its offensive line has been one of the primary story lines throughout FSU’s season. The Seminoles rank 100th nationally in rushing yards. But there is nothing like Maryland’s injury-depleted defense to cure those rushing woes. You all know how poorly Maryland has been against the run this season. A couple of notes on that: Maryland has played two of the nation’s better running backs in Miami’s Lamar Miller and Temple’s Bernard Pierce. And, of course, it defended — and defended well — Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense. On the other hand, the Terps also faced a pass-happy West Virginia offense that had virtually no rushing attack at that point in the season. So Maryland allows 214 rushing yards per game and has surrendered a league-high 15 rushing touchdowns. We’ll see if FSU can get near that rushing yardage mark. Having a healthy and mobile E.J. Manuel back at quarterback will help their cause. FSU piled up a season-high 242 rushing yards against Duke last week.
Overall, Maryland nearly won down in Tallahassee two years ago in a partially filled stadium. This will be a more difficult task. Maryland may start four or five freshmen on defense. The Terrapins rank 117th in opponents’ third-down conversions. Leading wide receiver Kevin Dorsey is sidelined. Manuel is playing well; he has completed 75 percent of his passes on second down. FSU is playing its first home game since the Sept. 17 loss to then-No. 1 Oklahoma. I look at FSU’s season like this: Were the Seminoles overhyped at the season’s start? Absolutely. But I also feel many people have bailed on this team far too soon. Look, FSU held No. 3 Oklahoma to a season-low 23 points. It nearly won at No. 8 Clemson after Manuel got hurt. Okay, it lost at Wake Forest to an improved Demon Deacons team that is likely headed to a bowl game. And it predictably pounded Duke. FSU has a surly defense and a great kicker.
Maryland has unexpectedly challenged two consecutive nationally ranked opponents. But Coach Randy Edsall still fell to 1-19 against ranked teams. Florida State is unranked, but in my view is at least on par with teams ranked 20 to 25. Behind Clemson, FSU may be the second-best team Maryland has played all season. The Seminoles entered the week as a 17-point favorite, a bit much in my mind. All that said, they are the more athletic and the better team. It will show Saturday. Brown gets about 95 yards rushing, but it’s not nearly enough.
Florida State 31, Maryland 21
Your thoughts and predictions please? And feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will enjoy reading the perspective as I fly to Jacksonville and then drive to Tallahassee today. Thanks.